Welfare cards could change the pension. But will they actually work? 432



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Cashless welfare – the card-based system that could limit pensioners’ spending to essential items – has already had a fair share of controversy.

While the original intention of the system was to help combat serious issues of addition in rural communities, many in the Starts at 60 community have expressed strong concern that it could be the start of a broader trend.

Now even the original intended benefit – fighting addiction in specific communities – has now been thrown into doubt. A prominent expert on drug and alcohol abuse has warned that this new system might not effectively treat the problem it was created to fix. Could the Government be making a huge mistake?

Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association executive officer Sam Biondo told The New Daily that such a system would not be an ideal long-term solution to deal with substance abuse. On the contrary, it could encourage people to go even further to fuel their addiction.

The Healthy Welfare Card system will be trialled in February next year in Ceduna, South Australia. 80% of dole payments will be placed onto a special debit card that will “quarantine” the money for essential bills and food items. The card cannot be spent on drugs, alcohol or gambling.

While some have praised the move as a way to save lives, others have expressed worry that it could create a black market trade.

“While the intention may be an honourable one by government, often it’s a one-dimensional approach,” said Biondo.

“The way we deal with people’s complex problems can’t can be dealt with by introducing a simplistic measure such as this one”.

“If it’s an attempt to restrict access to drugs and alcohol, you may see people’s behaviour change to then find alternative ways to gain the money to deal with their substance issue”.

“It may work for some people who have less severe problems and won’t impact them much, but for some with more severe problems, I don’t know exactly what the displacement result will be, but people will look for alternative ways, alternative substances and potentially more dangerous things that can satisfy them”.

As an alternative, he suggested the resources instead go into funding drug and alcohol treatment services in the remote communities where they were most needed.

“If you look at some of the outback communities in the Northern Territory, even NSW, Queensland, SA and WA – getting access to treatment is virtually impossible, yet these are exactly the people they are targeting in these measures to try and effect some form of behavioural change,” he said.

“It’s very short-sighted to think that the introduction of the card, in an isolated community, is necessarily going to create the peak conditions for resolution of very complex personal issues”.

Do you agree? Is the Healthy Welfare Card an effective way to save lives? Or will it simply become an unnecessary inconvenience? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. No stress, please. Why put older people through unecessary worry? Some of us are struggling already. I am greatful for what I have, not asking for more but don’t need any hassels.

  2. I am totally against this card for a few reasons, it takes people’s choice away, many go to markets and stalls to grab a bargain, these markets will not take these cards, most are small sellers without an eftpos machine. Older people know how to mange their money they have been doing it for years without any need for guidance from the Government. It will also encourage crime,addicts will get whatever it is they need one way or another, if they can’t get it legally they will take another path. It will only be a matter of time before everyone will be issued these cards instead of cash

    11 REPLY
    • You are 100% correct Libbi, I do not think this should be bought in it will certainly increase crime and is a big big worry, if I want a bottle of wine I should be able to buy one, you can just imagine the Pollies if they had to live this way, haha

    • Aged pensioners are not going to be affected

      1 REPLY
      • True, aged pensioners aren’t subjected to this … for now. But since all working aged welfare recipients are (which is new), many are worried that it’s just a matter of time. This is the thin edge of the wedge and there is another agenda. Still, I doubt this government will be around to implement it across the country. However, since the ALP let it pass the Senate, I wouldn’t rely on it either.

    • not for now Faye Rowntree but can you guarantee that in the future ? and I am against the card anyway even it does not extend to old aged pensioners, many older Australian’s are on the disability pension or are carers and they should not be forced on this card. Having a Social conscience does not mean you only care about yourself, it means you care about all

    • Libbi Elliot, show respect for us seniors who worked hard and paid taxes all our lives to receive a pensions………our pensions should never be attack by our politicians……….the one I feel their aiming for is the young people on the Dole ………..as many wont work what so ever and many should do National Service.

      1 REPLY
      • Maria, it’s hypocritical for anyone on welfare to criticise others on it, regardless of type. Life on unemployment benefits is very tough out there for young persons. It’s not like the good old days of walking into jobs off the street. And, housing affordability is at crisis levels. There are many who think that older persons ought not be living in houses worth $1M + which the younger generation will never have a chance to own. If you want to retain what the older generation have, it’s best not to awaken the sleeping giant.

    • Maria Poland you are offensive..what do you think I am? try showing some respect for me and my opinion..you came to my post I have no interest at all in talking to you

    • Politicians are bludging on the welfare system full time. They should be first to trial the new cards. See how many dodgy travel claims and helicopter rides we get then… 🙁

    • Maria Poland you have misunderstood Libbi’s comments….she is on the side of the pensioners and fully respects them.

    • These people will still gain money for their addiction if they want to. All they hae to do is grocery shop for someone else and then receive money from them..

    • You’ve just blown their plan out of the water Carolyn. They were so sure this would work, lol

    • No this should not be brought in it will only increase the crime rate most pensioner have done a great job of managing their money they do not need some over paid pollie telling them what they can or were they can spend their pension

  3. I think it is a step in the right direction. It is a shame that we have to go this far, but something has to be done to stop some from dragging our welfare system done by their addictions. Saying that it will course them to get their money else where such as crime is no good, isn’t helping the situation at all, then come up with something that will help not just pouring cold water on it…..we have to start some where, try it and see what happens, hopefully more will seek help to stop……

    17 REPLY
    • What proof does this government have to lump all the unfortunate people who cant get a job because there are no jobs .what proof do they have that the so called whole population on welfare are druggies ganblers .None. I remind people that agree with this song called card that the bulk of these people were previously in a job .have lost it due to jobs taken overseas business closed doors. Or government interfaces. The people on the bulk of pensions have already have already done thirty plus years of work .so think your selves lucky if you have a job and that you dont end up on dole tagged as a bludger .druggies or gamblers Get real

    • A real addict doesn’t care where they get their money from. Try talking to somebody high on ICE.

    • Since when has drug and alcohol been a problem with Pensioners Leave the pension alone it’s too hard in rural areas were most things are cash I hope this card covers petrol too or else we will be stuck there is no such thing as public transport out here I don’t drink or take drugs why should I be punished

    • I am not hearing of any older people on ICE Kathy Green , you must mix with the wrong crowd, the only people I know who use ice is putting it in their drinks in summer, the frozen water type. This is an excuse to control and dictate our lives

    • Very funny David James, I do not see it is trying to control our lives what so ever, it is a Government that is spending Billions of dollars on welfare of which a lot of that welfare is being, drunk, injected, smoked or gambled away and I agree with them stopping that, for every bodies sake. Older Australia’s like me would prefer a card to cash anyway.

    • What is stopping you Judith Forbes ? you can contact Centerlink and a card today it is called a basic’s Card and you have been able to do so for quite some time, your wants and needs should not be inflicted on us all. If you not capable of managing your money, then go, do not delay, log on to the Centerlik website and apply for a card today. But the rest of us are fully capable of managing our money 🙂

    • Well you might be as I am too, but addicts and selfish people are not so something has to be done about it…..thank god you do not run the country…..

      1 REPLY
    • You must live in the city Judith it won’t work in Rural areas !!
      It’s for food and bills
      What about Fuel for the car
      What about clothes
      What about food for my constant companions my Pets
      What about repairs on my house
      What about if I want to socialise
      with friends and go out for lunch or tea
      What about if I want to take my Grandchildren out for the day
      What this card will do is take away what quality of life I have left
      I budget very carefully to give myself the occasional treat you want to deny that for me do you I go without sometimes to have a little pleasure in my life It’s hard work fighting Cancer !!!!

    • Angie, in the NT you can do all of the above with the card. The recipients still have 80% of their payment that can be withdrawn as cash. BUT it is for those on the dole not the aged pension. However I must say we are on the pension & barely ever use cash. I know the banks are allowing the pass book accounts to stay at the moment but I believe there is rumblings to bring in a date when they will be no longer. People will have to get used to electronic methods. All the shops that do not have will have to change.

      1 REPLY
      • It’s not just for those on the “dole” at all. It’s for all working aged welfare recipients. That’s the big worry. Only aged pensioners are excluded. What justification is there for making those on disability pensions endure such indignity, shame and inconvenience? Most on disability have enough stress managing serious illness, pain and/or disability. This card is worrying on many levels.

    • We are not in the dark ages even pensioners do elotronic. I agree go on the card Judith and then post a feed back after you have been doing it for six months ..There are times when you would like to be treated compassionatly .And all people on welfare deserve the same..so please stop judgeing unless you have proof .And not morrisons heresay. A reminder again that people on welfare also do free charity work. That saves a billions for governments

    • “some” is the operative word – and when you say “some” realise that the Aged Pension is lumped into that welfare category and Aged pensions and other entitlements constitute 40% of the Welfare budget. The actual number of drug addicts in the Welfare system is a very small percentage of the total welfare population. Make any changes to the Welfare System and you can be guaranteed of unexpected affects on the aged in our community.

    • “some” is the operative word – and when you say “some” realise that the Aged Pension is lumped into that welfare category and Aged pensions and other entitlements constitute 40% of the Welfare budget. The actual number of drug addicts in the Welfare system is a very small percentage of the total welfare population. Make any changes to the Welfare System and you can be guaranteed of unexpected affects on the aged in our community.

    • Tell the shops around here who have a minimum of $10 and charge you for using the facility or they don’t have eftpos because it’s too expensive Even the Bendigo bank is taking out their Cash point Not enough business in small towns We are still in the dark ages here Bad TV reception and Internet some places still don’t have mobile reception No mail deliveries We even have town water NOT fit for human or pet consumption I have to buy drinking water as have no money at the moment to fix my rain water tank got to save up for it Don’t get me wrong I am not complaining but City people have no idea how tough we are doing it in rural areas The worst one is travelling a 6 hour trip to get specialist Health treatment or 2 hour round trip for public dentist with a 12 month wait Closest Hospital 100 Ks away and could wait anything up to 2 hours for an ambulance
      Those are the draw backs we accept I really don’t need anymore complications I’m getting to old and I get confused with this Cancer treatment

    • I never said anything about the dark ages at all, I do not need to go on any card other than what I have too, I am not judging either it is just that there are people on welfare that spend a lot of their money on addictions and not on what they should do and this has to stop…..I never said anyone on welfare did or didn’t do charity work that never came into my comments what so ever. It is not relevant what so ever and that saving the government money does not come in to it either in anyway shape or form…people on welfare should not be spending the majority of those payments on addictions. I live in a small rural town in the west of Victoria and it does and would work here.

      1 REPLY
      • I don’t know of any older person who wants this card. Most I know are terrified. Not all aged pensioners are on the internet and bank that way. Many still like to retain cash for bills and not be slugged for additional charges. My parents are in that category. And the government might have had some credibility had it it not made a blanket rollout to all welfare recipients. To suggest that all drink alcohol and gamble is preposterous. No, there is another agenda. Be careful what you wish for … the full details of the practicality of this card are yet to be disclosed.

    • Tell me where that is I am in the west of Victoria too my town has a population of about 80 not enough population to sustain high bank charges to small businesses for having eftpos

    • By the way you did say we are not living in the dark ages We are haha compared to built up areas

    • Well my town has more people than yours and we do not live in the dark ages, we have NBN, Austar, eftpos, etc. etc. etc.

  4. I am one of the older ones they are talking about and I do not see any problem in it what so ever but we have to wait and see what happens….does gambling include my weekly fun and friendship day at my local Bingo?????

    20 REPLY
    • You can opt for it if you like, the majority don’t want it. In rural and regional areas, our small shops, the handy man, the lawn mowing man and markets don’t have eftpos .

    • Judith of course it doesn’t. It is not you this is targeted at. It is people who are serial welfare recipients, and who eventually go onto the aged pension, from what I can make out. They have never Managed their Money properly. Spent money on their addictions first, then food for themselves and kids, came last. Never worked in some cases, constantly doing the rounds of the charities asking for help! They are the ones that need this intervention, and sounds like a good idea. Will it work? Have no idea!

    • I do not see it as a problem for anyone but those ripping off the welfare system for their addictions. They deserve to get caught and stopped. As for the majority not wanting it I think that is a fabrication Cathy Garvie. I live in a Rural country town in Victoria all our shops have eftpos. The handy man, lawn mower man etc will come up with a way around it don’t you worry. David James you are one negative angry man aren’t you, you never have anything good to say about anything, well not about anything I say seeings I only say nasty garbage…..

    • Molly couldn’t agree more see so much of this where children come last behind parents drug and acohol addictions then the next generations Do the same thing because that all they know very sad to watch but shouldn’t apply to age pensions

    • It should apply to all it is not a problem, it is something new and people would get used to it the same as they do everything new.

    • Judith Forbes.. Most small business in our rural and regional area do not have eftpos. Internet connections drop out, they can’t afford the fees the banks charge, customers don’t like paying a fee to buy goods. If you look at the comments on this and other pages, you will see that the majority are against the card. No one has liked your comments. You seem to want 70 -100 year old pensioners to suffer anxiety and upheaval because of the bad habits of a minority.

    • The issue Judith … with the greatest respect … is the limited capacity for cash withdrawal… it may well restrict your Bingo morning because should it be introduced to all welfare recipients you will get 20% of your income for discretionary spending (cash withdrawals). It’s absolutely none of my business how much you spend on your friendship day …. but I was involved in supporting one yesterday where the frail elderly went to a local cafe for lunch… I’d really hate to see those ladies denied that weekly outing because of some silly rule about cash available for nondesignated activities.

    • It is a few not the majority as 12 million people are not on here going crook….get it right. Nobody will suffer anxiety or upheaval because of it that is only your idea, oh and just because most people do not like my comments what I am supposed to run away and hide or change them to suit everyone else, well I won’t be doing either, I am entitled to my opinions and that is that, I do not care if you don’t like them.

    • Most places have eftpos so you can pay for your lunch with your card. I would have more than enough money with my 20% to play bingo, have friendship lunches, buy petrol, and still have money left over so no problems here.

      1 REPLY
      • Judith, I see that you are an enlightened and perhaps younger aged pensioner. But many are too old to learn the internet and don’t want this hassle in life. I think you are missing the point, with respect. This site is a trial, but it has been blanketed over all welfare recipients, excluding aged, but including carers and disabled. This is how work-for-the-dole started – just a “trial”. Now it is mandatory for all dole recipients. It will make budgeting harder for anyone who doesn’t bank on the internet and/or has financial troubles. That is fact. Why? Because no cash can be withdrawn. No savings can be made. All the money on the card must be spent. So we have a government going against any rational economic theory by encouraging people to spend 80% of their money and save a maximum of 20%. The mere notion is economic failure.

    • I guess it depends where you live Judith … my concerns is that the trials seem to be targeting regional and rural centres where EFT is not always available and certainly not reliable when it is available. Further it is very clear that at least one outspoken Senator does want to extend it to all benefit recipients. It is pretty patronising to say “most places have EFTPos” … in this rural municipality on the East Coast of Tasmania most places do not.

    • Judith Forbes.. So $160 a fortnight will buy your petrol, bread, paper, lunches, bingo, vegetables, meat, get lawn mowed, car repairs, house repairs, replace household goods, plants for growing food, money for family presents and donations to local charities ? You are entitled to your opinion but we don’t want it inflicted on us.

    • I am not inflicting anything on you at all Cathy Garvie I am merely saying what I think and as I live in a free society, I can do just that. You can say all you want against it and I can say all I want for it, in the long run it doesn’t really matter because it is up to the government to do as they please with it anyway.

    • Wendy Fowler I am referring to Victoria where I live. I do not know about other places as I do not live there, they are targeting rural areas as that seems to be where the majority of these offenders come from. The welfare system can not keep giving handouts over and over again without something being done about stopping these from doing this. Charities can not keep giving to these over and over because of this so what gets done about it, nothing we just keep going around in circles. Someone comes up with an idea and everybody cries foul. Then come up with some thing constructive to stop it and try and help instead of bagging.

    • not one person has liked anything you have to say judith Forbes, that should be telling you something

    • I don’t like what you say either, it is not my idea, it will go through if they think it should so get used to it. I am entitled to my opinion and I will continue to do that while I can still breath. Makes no different to me what you all think.

      1 REPLY
      • I don’t know Judith, but I wonder if you would be so cavalier if the government passes the law that aged pensioners have to fund their own pension by using the equity in their own homes? This is being touted around right now. A loan scheme or a death tax, all of these things are on the table, but just not so openly. So don’t be so quick to judge others, which you are doing by segregating yourself as an aged pensioner. Many younger welfare recipients don’t think aged pensioners ought to be sitting on multimillion dollar homes whilst the young ones are homeless. I’m not saying it’s that simple, but unless you are self-funding, hurling scorn at others has a ring of self-righteousness.

  5. Many elderly like my mum and aunt only have a bankbook. They have never used anything electronic. They both served in the Women’s Land Army and their husbands served in New Guinea. Leave us alone and stop demonising pensioners. Politicians are bigger leaners and rorters of tax payers money.

    8 REPLY
    • It shouldn’t be for pensioners full stop. It will cause more angst and anxiety in addition to all the cuts and catastrophic changes already foisted on them.

    • I’d be happy for all politicians to have an expenses card which only could be used for genuine expenses, not $10,000.00 dinners. Anyone agree?

    • I don’t think it’s dawned on pollies that they’re paid out of our taxes too

    • I’d like them to be given a debit card with a set amount on it. When they’ve spent it all, the party’s over. They can pay for everything themselves

    • they have so far not for old age pensioner? but they have lied so much in the past.. how many of you believe anything they say? I don’t. And if they bring it in, it will be after the next election, they would not have the guts to do it before

    • The politicians and government agencies have ripped the public off since the beginning of time.

    • What are you admitting to Cathy, your mother and aunt are guilty of substance abuse? Probably best to read the article again.

  6. No way that’s pitiful. Grown adults do not squander their money on drugs, alcohol and night clubs. They have worked hard for many years to enjoy this time of their lives to do what they want with this payment. Most of the time it’s the family who gets to enjoy their parents and loved ones.

  7. Question? What’s the difference between a person in a well paid job and a person receiving a welfare benefit? The well paid worker can afford to gamble, purchase illegal drugs, spend his or her money in whatever way he or she wants!

    7 REPLY
    • Yes but they are using their own money not ours

      1 REPLY
      • But the issue is that prima facie, this cashless card is meant to solve problems of alcohol and gambling addiction. By demonising only those on welfare, it kind of blows that furphy out of the water … plenty of people abuse alcohol and gamble who are not on welfare. Most welfare recipients don’t have the money. It’s just a small sample who do and there are other ways. This government has an agenda, make no mistake.

    • See that’s the issue here..the worker who pays taxes..and the non worker who lives off the tax payer.. who does the most whinging. .go figure

    • How do you know they are paying taxes? And how come all the taxes the people I’m talking about have paid, don’t contribute to their well being at a time when its needed?

    • Of course there are drug addicts in all walks of life but to say they are biggest addicts is a very sweeping statement

      1 REPLY
      • Everyone pays tax, well those who live in civil society. It’s called the GST. So everyone is paying a minimum of 10% on taxable supplies.

  8. And all on the whim of a Billionare Miner and a Millionare PM another good reason not to vote Liberal

    6 REPLY
    • Liberal, labor, they are all very well off.
      Their personal wealth shouldn’t have anything to do with how we vote.
      Our votes should be for who is going to do well for our country.

    • From my perspective Anne it is not how much they have, it is a matter of how little we have as pensioners, I find it unpalatable that men with so much can begrudge those with so little

    • It highlight the difference between them and us as just average Australian’s Anne Gilbert . They don’t have a clue who we are and what our lifestyles are about. To have so much and want to control those who have so little is an obcenity

    • One if the biggest idiots there was. Much like Bush made up his own words and this one spoke in mono syllables. Poking his tounge out much like former Campbell QLD

    • It is not the same card Maxine Hawking , the card you are talking about is the Basic’s Card and yes I can blame the Liberals and I do, they had to legislate last week to get this passed, if it was the same card they would not have needed legislation

  9. How can it be of benefit when you lose the ability to shop at farmers markets? Suppose the next step will be a surcharge on the unfortunates forced to use this.

    1 REPLY
    • We should take a closer look at what’s happened in the US, in some states, government enforcers with weapons have totally destroyed farmers markets and organic foods, and also chemists(drugstores) that sell vitamins, especially the high potency ones. You can’t even grow vegies in your own backyard.
      You have to buy from the big supermarkets who’s shelves are filled with Monsanto’s GMO foods.
      First they get rid of the big and small farmers with intimidation and foreclosures(like they are doing here), and then they fill the paddocks with Roundup ready GMO crops, sprayed incessantly with herbicides and pesticides.
      Transnational corporations(i.e. Monsanto) and bankers etc rule America, not the government for the people.
      This card is Australia’s precursor, one of many, to the same end.

  10. I live in a Rural town only one place has eftpos and that the pub The General store charges to use your card and it has to be a minimum of $10 so if you just need Milk and Bread it means you have to buy things you don’t need
    Most places around here only except minimum transaction of $10 So it won’t work in Rural areas It’s hard enough to juggle my pension So I better have my wits about me and NEVER forget to get everything when I go into town The thing is I don’t have a large fridge and there is no way I can afford a bigger one
    Talk about make a pensioners life total misery it’s like they are punishing us for being old and for me are they saying it’s my fault I have Cancer It’s rife in rural areas probably because of the chemicals Farmers use
    The way we are treated makes me feel like a burden even though I have paid taxes all my life

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